May 23, 2017

Variable Star Observing 101.

An artist’s conception of an accreting binary system. (Credit: NASA).

Bored and looking for something new to do in astronomy? Tired of hauling out that imaging rig you took out a 2nd mortgage for just to see “how M31 looks in my 10-inch SCT tonight?” Let me introduce you to the fun field of variable star observing, an exciting endeavor that you can actually contribute some real science to. But first, a little history; [Read more...]

AstroEvent: A Close Binary Occultation.

Occultation as seen from Albany, New York at about 3 AM Local. (Created in Starry Night).

Occultation as seen from Albany, New York at about 3 AM Local. (Created in Starry Night).

 

 Astronomical occultations are always fun to catch. Unlike other astronomical events that often happen over glacial time scales, occultations happen with abrupt swiftness. And besides just being plain cool, occultations can produce real scientific value, data that you can contribute to from your own backyard… and there’s no bigger occulting body in the night sky than our own Moon. This week, I’d like to bring to your attention a fairly bright and interesting star that is currently undergoing a series of lunar occultations this year; Sigma Scorpii. This star shines at magnitude +2.9 in the heart of the constellation Scorpius and is itself a close binary difficult to separate with a telescope. This star is also known as Al Niyat, or Arabic for the “Shield of the Heart,” possibly referring to its visual proximity to brilliant Antares. Sigma Sco is itself a complex system, with a 9th magnitude companion about 20” distant. [Read more...]